How paradoxical it all seems! To be blessed by one’s sufferings and persecutions, to be blessed because one is poor as Luke’s version puts it and to be blessed because one is hungry for righteousness- and more!! Truly here is a world turned upside down.
I invite you to focus on just one of these beatitudes-blessed attitudes as some have called them. It’s this.
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.
Now we know that’s not true in our world. What do the meek inherit-an eviction notice-a promise of social housing in 40 years’ time-a mould ridded poorly maintained flat at an exorbitant rent-a tent in the underpass. Those who inherit the earth are those who inherit family wealth or have appropriate connections. Not the meek-they are the losers. Meek are you! You’re fired.
Jesus ‘message to you and I is that we should seek after a loving God and follow his way of meekness and majesty- a different kingdom to that of the Kingdoms of this world.
What then of the poor, the marginalised and those who have conspicuously failed to inherit the earth. Now there are those who will answer in these ways. Let us in kindness give the opponents of the gospel the first word.
All is for the best in this the best of all possible worlds.
Capitalism is not a perfect system but it is the one in which the bad can do the least harm.
The kingdom of God belongs to the time of the not yet. We must await the age to come.
Indeed as Jesus said –the poor you have always with you. Charity is wasteful and social justice is a mirage. The best to help the progress of society is to get all we can and promote economic growth.
References supplied on request.
And so secondly beware! Before you adopt any of these points of view remember the fullness of Jesus’ teaching and practice. Jesus called upon his hearers to repent for the kingdom of God is not to be indefinitely postponed. It is at hand-imminent-breaking through now! That’s from Matthew’s gospel last week’s gospel reading. We are poised between the already and the not yet.
And remember also what Jesus does. He reaches out to the poor, the underprivileged, the marginalised and the hungry and feeds them. The time of the Kingdom of God does not follow the time of the Kingdom of this world. The two are juxtaposed. What is the Church but a sign of God’s new world order. That’s why this a community of love-God’s Kingdom and why profit, power and worldly status have no place among us. This is also why Christians often find themselves persecuted. Every time when I come here I pass a place where a Christian minister was put to death because his Christian teaching didn’t correspond with establishment teaching. It helps to concentrate my mind on my Sunday duty!
A very useful phrase to sum up our Christian situation is this one. We live between the times. The time of Christ’s first coming and that of his final coming. But we don’t just wait passively. We pray for the coming of the kingdom and we create here and now signs of his Kingdom’s coming.
And so thirdly I have spoken so far of our inheritance of the promise of the kingdom. But what of the meekness that is the key to this inheritance. Yes Jesus and his people are revolutionaries but not in the usual way. Jesus is not Che Guevara with a halo. When his disciples point to the weapons they are carrying his response is utterly straightforward. That’s enough of that!
What then is meekness? Perhaps a better word would be humility. And we can see in the life and ministry of Jesus and those who have followed him most closely that humility is always the keynote of their lives. Ultimately it is humility that disarms the powerful and opens the way to the creative love of God. If this sounds like foolishness remember our epistle reading and Paul’s famous words. The foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
In this act of worship and fellowship around the Lord’s Table we receive him in the signs that he has given us. We become his body in the world and remember the words of Mother Theresa that Christ has no body now on earth but ours. We become as St Augustine put it, what we eat. And so you see we receive a calling to continue his work in the world-in love, mercy and humble service for the coming Kingdom in all its fullness. This can seem daunting but there are many who have walked this way before us and have become an inspiration for us. What’s more we have John Wesley’s final words and testimony to serve as a benediction. The best of all is that God is with us.